Asimov's Foundation Novels - What order?
October 8, 2005 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Asimov's "Foundation" series: What's the correct order to read them?

In "Prelude to Foundation", there is a suggested list, but it differs from the suggested list I have read on Wikipedia. Specifically, when should "Forward the Foundation" be read? After "Prelude" or last? And finally, Wikipedia states "it is possible that reading the books in a different order than they were written will change the understanding of the series, because it could ignore the evolution of Asimov's thinking about the Foundation or spoil plot surprises." So can someone recommend they best order?

Anyway, I'm almost finished with "Prelude" what should I go on to next?
posted by punkrockrat to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Personally, I would read Foundation, then Second Foundation, then go on to another series or author. I read the next two books after Second Foundation and wasn't very impressed.
posted by agropyron at 9:34 AM on October 8, 2005

(Psst. Foundation and Empire comes between Foundation and Second Foundation.)

The best approach is to read them in order of publication, rather than prequels-first.

And you can safely ignore the novels from the 1980s and early 1990s; the original trilogy (published 1951-1953 in book form, but comprising stories written from 1942 to 1950 with one exception) is really where it's at.
posted by mcwetboy at 9:50 AM on October 8, 2005

Yes, read them in the order of publication. The prequels are more meaningful that way.
posted by killdevil at 10:07 AM on October 8, 2005

You started with Prelude? Oh bugger. It makes a great close to the series :/

Publication order, definitely.
posted by nthdegx at 10:16 AM on October 8, 2005

Publication order! It's probably a matter of personal taste, but I found none of the books after Second Foundation to be very good, so if you were me you'd stop then. :-)
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:19 AM on October 8, 2005

I will also say publication order. And if you get beyond Second Foundation, you might want to take a break and read The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, and Robots of Dawn, because the the two series intersect (poorly) and it's easier to avoid spoilers that way.
posted by bingo at 11:36 AM on October 8, 2005

I have to admit I found Foundation's Edge worthwhile. Actually it was the first Foundation book I read, and there's enough backstory in it that maybe you don't even need to read the rest original three. (Heresy, I know. But I found these dry reading. At the very least, Asimov became a smoother writer over the intervening years.)

I also enjoyed the following ones in which Asimov tied his three major series (Foundation, Robot, and Galactic Empire) together. A lot of people say he shouldn't have bothered, but I did find the exercise interesting. I didn't bother with any of the non-Asimov ones that followed his death. (Orson Scott Card's short story set in the Foundation universe is worthwhile, though. Track it down if you can -- if nothing else, it's in Maps in a Mirror.)
posted by kindall at 11:41 AM on October 8, 2005

I read the entire series in order of publication. This is my favourite book series. I would recommend reading in order.
posted by riffola at 1:20 PM on October 8, 2005

Oh, another must-read: Donald Kingsbury's Psychohistorical Crisis. It's basically Foundation with the serial numbers filed off (due to the fact that Asimov's heirs wouldn't let him play in the official universe) and some additions. Half the fun is matching up the original Foundation things with Kingsbury's versions. It's had mixed reviews, but I liked it a lot.
posted by kindall at 2:48 PM on October 8, 2005

I'd go and read something more rewarding, to be honest.

But if you want to do Asimov properly, I'd suggest:

The Last Question (short story)
Nightfall (short story, not the novel based on it)
I, Robot & The Rest of the Robots (Short story collections, robot stuff)
The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun & Robots of the Dawn (Robot novels)
And finally the Foundation novels in publication order.

The Last Question & the robot novels are his best work IMO, but if you are just interested in Foundation it is worth reading the robot novels before you hit the later installments (Prelude, Earth, etc).
posted by Leon at 4:57 PM on October 8, 2005

My own, very personal opinion is to read Foundation, then Foundation and Empire, then Second Foundation. Then stop and do not read any of the other ones.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:14 PM on October 8, 2005

ikkyu2's probably right, but the prequels are actually really great (and most nay-sayers have never read them, as they came out so close to Asimov's death, years after people read the rest of the series).
posted by Marquis at 4:34 AM on October 9, 2005

Best answer: In order of publication, up to Second Foundation. After that, it's a matter of how you view Asimov's work and his directions regarding the series. Without going into anything too specific or spoiling, the series becomes less detached, and more of a view into Asimov's creative mind. He makes no attempt to disguse his thoughts during the writing, and you get some pretty remarkable insight into the man himself.

Of course, it's not always pretty from a literary standpoint. I felt as if he were writing down who he was, what he believed, what he wanted and wished for. Not only do you have to grasp what it is that he's thinking and feeling, but you'd have to forgive how raw it feels at times.

If you really want a feel for Asimov's belief in the Foundation universe, read as many of his short stories and robot novels as you can before going into anything past Second Foundation. Personally, I read Prelude last. It felt the most fitting that way, especially with the ending.
posted by Saydur at 4:59 AM on October 9, 2005

Best answer: Another vote for publication order, though I'm not as hard on the two books that follow the original trilogy (I liked Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth).

As for the prequel books--I remember Prelude being fine enough. Forward the Foundation isn't a very good book in its own right, but if you know something about Asimov's life and the circumstances under which he finished up the book (it was his last work of fiction, and was published posthumously), it's one of the saddest reading experiences you'll ever have. The names of several of the characters are anagrams of names of people who were important in Asimov's life (his wife, daughter, and literary agent make anagrammatic appearances, if I remember correctly--I haven't read it since it came out in hardcover), and as a result the book becomes a kind of heavily coded memoir.
posted by Prospero at 7:00 AM on October 9, 2005

« Older He's sick, I'm scared, and I'm 3000 miles away....   |   London and the Isle of Man Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.